7 words you’ll only hear in Canada

By Sara ChappelSara Chappel

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23 comments

If you’re a certain age, you’ll remember Molson Canadian’s famous Joe Canada rant (which went viral before going viral was a thing), in which the actor unleashes a torrent of patriotic vocabulary:  “A tuque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch, and it is pronounced zed…”

Although Canadians and Americans share a common language, we have a few words here north of the border that haven’t quite trickled down south. (If you’ve ever asked where the washroom was in Washington and gotten a blank stare, you’ve experienced the phenomenon first-hand.) Here are a few terms that you’ll only hear north of the 49th.

Double-double

Although primarily associated with Tim Hortons, double-double is now used across Canada as a generic expression meaning coffee with two creams and two sugars. Ask for double cream, double sugar if you don’t want to get a puzzled stare from the gal at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Duluth. (And if you need a snack, the standard term is “donut hole,” not Timbit.)

Two-four, beer store, and pint

We have nationalistic drinking tendencies here in Canada—you won’t hear any of these phrases in the States. Oh, sure, they have containers with 24 beers in them, but they’re called flats or cases. Stores that sell exclusively alcohol exist all over the US, but an institution called The Beer Store—well, that’s pretty much a Canadian thing. And there are pints in the States, but they’re 16 ounces, rather than the British/Canadian Imperial 20 ounces.

Peameal/back bacon

Peameal or back bacon in Canada refers to brined slices of pork loin coated in cornmeal—which resembles a thin pork chop more than traditional bacon. Back bacon shouldn’t be confused with “Canadian bacon” in the States, though—this term usually refers to a thin slice of smoked ham, rather than anything we’d call bacon up here.

Tuque/toque/touque

However you spell it, it’s most often called a knit cap, beanie, or stocking cap south of the border. This style of hat was a symbol of French-Canadian nationalism following the 1837 rebellion in Lower Canada—but now it’s simply the best way to keep ears toasty warm during a January cold snap. Thanks to Canadian cultural icons Bob and Doug Mackenzie, the use of the word “tuque” is slightly more familiar to our American neighbours than it used to be.

Toboggan

So much more evocative than “sled,” toboggan is (most likely) from the Micmac word “tobakun,” which means … sled.

Hydro

When you pay your hydro bill, what type of power are you paying for? In many parts of Canada, “hydro” refers to electricity—probably because much of our electricity comes from hydroelectric power. In the US, though, “hydro” means your water bill—although people are more likely to say “water” anyway.

Smarties, Coffee Crisp, Bloody Caesars, Kinder Surprise eggs, and ketchup and all-dressed chips

None of these are available in the US—and Kinder Surprise eggs are actually illegal.

For some real Canadian fun, try saying this to your next American visitor:

“I’m going to collect the loonies and toonies out of my knapsack and head to the Beer Store for a two-four. On my way back, I’ll pick us up a double-double and some Timbits, then we can have that back bacon for breakfast. If you spill your Tim’s because I’m driving 20 clicks over the speed limit, I’ll give you a serviette to use in the washroom. And don’t worry—I’ve got a mickey of vodka to put in our Caesars. Save me a seat on the chesterfield, eh?”

 

What other Canadianisms do you know?

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23 comments

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Dragonman_39

Apr. 19, 2014

12:30 pm

I feel I have to speak up for our friends on the coast I'm from B.C.and when I was Younger I always used the term 2/4 when getting 24 beer and we "us people on the coast" used the bag milk system about 10 years ago and a bit didn't go over very well out here. now that said how 'bout all words we use that the U.S. drops the "u" from such as behaviour, colour favour. Just noticed that this text editor is telling me that I'm not using the correct spelling which means a US dictionary is being used.


fyoung7803@juno.com

Import

Apr. 12, 2014

9:04 am

Well, the word is so ubiquitous I guess you never thought of putting it on the list, eh?! Yes, it is the “word” EH. When I moved to Toronto from the US I started hearing “eh” at the end of sentences. After 8 years, I am still trying to figure if the person using it is asking a question, or just making a statement. I am getting used to it, though. When I first arrived I would end sentences with “y’all, eh?!?” Over the years, the y’all has faded away. I do go back to the US several times a year so as to not lose my Southern accent, which Canadians find quite charming, eh.


pa.murphy@sympatico.ca

Murph.

Apr. 8, 2014

8:23 am

Here in Canada, especially in Northwestern Ontario, a tartan hunting jacket is known as a "Kenora Dinner Jacket". Perhaps there's an equivalent in the U.S. that I'm not aware of?


Rob4java

Apr. 1, 2014

4:08 am

When I lived in Vancouver BC, we bought half sacks (6 cans of beer) or flats of beer. Sometimes I'd just get a sack (12 cans) of beer! Now that I live in Alberta, we say that I'm getting a 2-4. Sometimes I say a flat, as that is acceptable here too. Every once in a while I'll use the term half sack (in Alberta) and I'd get that strange look!


joeandnorma2005@gmail.com

MiniJoe

Mar. 31, 2014

3:19 pm

How about Ginger Ale? Good ole Canada Dry or Schweppes? Nope. Not in the good old USA. Have tried in many parts and they look at you like you have 3 heads. Ginger in a drink? They offer sprite or something like that. So we travel with our own Canada Dry! Ahhhh. The good life. I'll take Canada any day eh!


mlsnare@hotmail.com

Transitcat

Mar. 30, 2014

11:27 am

In Manitoba, we can only buy liquor and wine at the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission, shortened to "LC". Also, I don't know if anyone else calls it this, but when you drink at someone's house before going to the main event, it's called "pre-gaming"....as in, "We're going to pre-game at Doug's house so we better stop by the LC first." Cheers! :)


Realjocanada

Mar. 1, 2014

2:50 pm

In Saskatchewan south of Biggar a pull over hooded sweatshirt with a pouch in front is called a BunnyHug. Not in the north of the province though or anywhere else in Canada.


mikerfield@hotmail.com

scooterdie

Feb. 15, 2014

12:26 pm

Well at least in Ontario and east bags of milk are most popular. In USA and western Canada, they have no clue what they are. In fact, people have had to post videos on youtube to prove they exist


Bill.B

Dec. 19, 2013

11:24 am

Two-four and beer store are Ontario terms. Two-four is gaining popularity in BC due to Ontario tourists and ex-pats, but we usually use "flat" for 24 packs. Beer store is like "dep", it's a localized term. In terms of chocolate bars, I can't believe that the US doesn't have Coffee Crisp!


MLA

Dec. 3, 2013

2:22 pm

In the US you don't 'cottage' (verb), go 'cottaging' (verb) or describe anything as 'cottagey' (adjective).


Whitecrj

Nov. 7, 2013

5:11 pm

I believe Rye and Poutine are unique to Canada. I have noticed a lot of cross-border doppelgangers: Garrison Keillor = Stuart McLean John Stewart = Rick Mercer Molly Pitcher = Laura Secord Also, not sure if it's regional, but American friends have looked at me pretty strange when I mention a bag of milk.


L00nL0ver

Nov. 5, 2013

4:52 pm

Americans don't know what "broadloom" is. And if you ask for "homo" (or homogenized) milk at a food store in the US you'll get some strange looks!


dstaples@marchofdimes.com

Oct. 17, 2013

1:02 pm

Regarding the tugue...in the USA we call it a "watch cap" ...guessing this comes from the navy or other services ...a hat to wear when you are on watch. The watch cap fits tightly to the head. A fuller version, often with pom-pom and more stretchy qualifies as a stocking cap. And you can get smarties here. But not coffee crisp, dammit.


pghpa611@hotmail.com

pghpa611

Sep. 28, 2013

9:13 pm

Some places in USA say "POP" including Pittsburgh which is my home. Soda is more southern and western not really eastern.


Joe Canada

Sep. 19, 2013

1:07 pm

I always pick up a 2-4 for May 2-4.


ibuycdn@hotmail.com

Sep. 16, 2013

2:50 pm

News pronounced here rhyming with Views not with zoos. Nuclear pronounced here 'New clee err' not Nuke Q lerr. Newfoundland pronounced here 'new fund land' (not New FOUND Land). Better quality food in almost all cases here as our standards for artificial ingredients are higher.


t.harasti@rogers.com

Sep. 15, 2013

9:38 pm

Have you ever tried getting cuttlery in the deep south so you can eat your meal? They call it silverware, even the plastic knives and forks. TFH Toronto, ON


farmgirl56

Sep. 14, 2013

9:24 pm

I am born, raised and lived in Canada for 57 years and have never heard anyone say they were going to buy a two-four. Everyone I know goes to the beer store for a flat of beer. Maybe it is nore of an Eastern term that is not used as frequently in BC.


SUSIE

Sep. 13, 2013

5:47 am

And what about 'pop'? Soda in the US of A. Pop in Canada.


Camp David Cook

Sep. 12, 2013

1:59 pm

MMC covered the bacon debacle, shame on you! What about Ontario's most favourite "take that America" of MUSKOKA CHAIR?


GCAlan

Sep. 12, 2013

8:22 am

George Bernard Shaw said something like the USA and Britain are separated by a pond and a common language. I guess a common language can even be separated by a line on a map. Anyway, all y'all are always welcome down here when the snow falls up there - we'll even deliver two-fours instead of cases! And cortaditos instead of double-doubles. Alan Stein - Miami Florida


mmc

Sep. 12, 2013

8:04 am

Ok, I have to clear this up, it seems everyone, including Cottage Life doesn't have a clue about the types of bacon. First off, peameal bacon and back bacon are 2 different things. Canadian bacon as the American's call it is back bacon which is like a smoked ham, basically already cooked when you buy it. Our bacon, which is hard to find in the US, is pickled pork loin rolled in cornmeal and we call it peameal. Funny thing is the Canadian bacon (back bacon) is actually an Irish thing and fairly hard to find in Canada. A good butcher will carry both peameal and back bacon. The lesson here is that "back bacon" is what the Americans call Canadian bacon (also very good), and peameal is our bacon, which of course is awesome.


JRB

Sep. 12, 2013

6:57 am

Canada: garbage USA: trash UK: rubbish And when you what to pay someone in the States, you write a "check" not a "cheque". Ron Bremer Carlisle, ON


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